Sentencing of Floyd Irons, the former coach of the Vashon High School boys' basketball team, was delayed for a fourth time earlier this month. Irons, a Vashon graduate and for a time the school's principal, was to be sentenced in federal court January 18 for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme.
Scheduling problems led to previous delays. But this time U.S. District Judge Richard Webber shelved the hearing in response to a sealed request from the U.S. Attorney's Office, a potential sign that more charges may be forthcoming.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith declines to confirm or deny whether that is the case.
Explains Rick Sindel, Irons' St. Louis attorney: "There are some other people — other avenues and things — that are being investigated. So until those are concluded, we won't be in a position to close the case out." Sindel declines to elaborate on the "other avenues."
Irons and three other defendants — Michael Noll, operator of the Best of the Midwest Youth Foundation for basketball and at one time a confidant of Irons; mortgage broker John Mineo Jr.; and real estate appraiser Andrew Tegethoff — have already pled guilty for participating in the real estate scheme. Court papers say the fraud involved obtaining sham loans and purchasing homes throughout metropolitan St. Louis at inflated values, in order to collect cash and pay kickbacks to some of the participants.
Irons was charged on September 20, 2007, and was originally scheduled to be sentenced November 29. He has been free on a $10,000 bond. The ex-coach is now slated to get his sentence on February 28. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million for each of two different counts, according to a plea agreement he signed. Part of that plea agreement stipulates that Irons must provide information to the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) about high school basketball players' eligibility violations.
MSHSAA executive director Kerwin Urhahn says he and Irons sat down for a talk in early December, along with MSHSAA's general counsel and Assistant U.S. Attorney Goldsmith. Urhahn says Irons was forthcoming "on certain issues" and adds, "There were certain things we asked him, and he said he had no knowledge of them. It's one of those things where I can't force the gentleman."
Urhahn declines to provide specifics but says the conversation with Irons covered more than just Vashon. Urhahn plans to approach the athletic directors of the other relevant schools. "I want them to be aware of what was said and see if they can verify or deny any validity," he says, but declines to name who may be implicated.
The MSHSAA director provided a cursory report of the meeting to his board of directors when they met last week, letting them know the agency's investigation will continue over the next several months. Urhahn says he cannot estimate when the probe will conclude, or what, if any, violations may be formally documented.
[Editor's note: Irons was the subject of a Riverfront Times investigation, "Basketball by the Book," in 2006-07. The series, which was recognized with top honors by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the Education Writers Association (EWA), is available at www.riverfronttimes.com along with coverage of the current federal proceedings involving Irons.]